Monday, December 24, 2012

Day 10- Life on the Table

It's Christmas Eve!  I heart Christmas Eve!

This really doesn't have much to do with Christmas Eve, but I wanted to share it anyways.  Last night Ryan and I had a really great conversation.  One of those conversations that isn't the least bit transactional (ie: you get the baby, I'll make dinner, you let the dog out, etc...) but totally real and deep. And I was sharing some of the things that I have been learning and some areas that God is stretching me in.

One of them being this whole taking off the masks and realizing just how hindering my insecurity has been.  It's affected my friendships, jobs I've had and my marriage.  But I'm experiencing some new found freedom to be me and I am loving it.  This blogging journey has been part of God working on me.

I used to be too scared to write.  My insecurity and fear held me back.  But thankfully, God is not letting me stay there in that place.  My friend Emilie, she's 11, is sometimes held back by fear.  It's totally not logical when you know her, and I've known her most of her life, because she's beautiful and sweet and funny.  Like, really funny.  Not just funny for an 11 year old.

I see a lot of me in her in that I am held back by fear.  But Emilie's mom tells her, "Don't leave life on the table."  Emilie told me that one day- that her mom tells her that.  She said it with a sigh, in a total 11 going on 16 kind of way.  And do you know what?  I needed to hear it.  I am guilty of leaving life on the table.  Of not taking risks.  Of letting fear win.

Do you know who didn't leave life on the table?  Peter.  Peter was one of Jesus' closest disciples.  He was in the BFF category not just the friends at school category.  Remember when Jesus came walking up to the boat that the disciples were in on the water.  It was Peter that stepped out of the boat.  Yep, fear did get to him and he started to sink.  But none of the other disciples even had the nerve to step out of that boat.  And after Jesus died and rose again Peter started to really not leave life on the table.  He lived so fully for Christ that when he was sentenced to death for being a Christ follower he refused to be crucified like Jesus did.  He believed himself to be unworthy so he was crucified upside down.

I don't know if you let fear hold you back at all.  If you do, trust me, I get it.  But I would encourage you today to take a risk.  To not hold back in loving God and loving others.  To give fully of yourself and to be fully present wherever you are.  And dear one, today, don't leave life on the table.  No one benefits from that.

** I just wanted to add a quick note about the firefighters that were shot today as they arrived on the scene of a house and car fire in my hometown of Webster, NY.  Two lost their lives today and two are in the hospital.  I am praying for them and for their families.  But I wanted to reiterate that in today's society it is so very easy to let fear win.  Whether it's insecurity type of fear or evil in this world type of fear.  Don't let fear win.  Keep loving to the fullest and let's overcome evil with good.**

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Day 9 Worth it All

The lyrics to one of my all time favorite worship songs go something like this:

When I'm there in Your glorious presence
Every knee is bowed before You
Hear the sound of heaven singing
You are worth it all
All the saints cry Holy Holy
Angels singing worthy worthy
Forever I will shout Your praises
You are worth it all

I let go of all I have
Just to have all of You
And no matter what the cost
I will follow You

Jesus, everything I've lost
I have found in You
When I finally reach the end I'll say

You are worth it all
You are worth it all

We sang this in church today.  I wanted to shout it.  I wanted to kneel down and whisper it because with every fiber of my being I believe it to be true.  It's an easy song to sing when I'm on a mountain top, when life is pretty and the road is easy.  It's not as easy a song to sing when I'm walking through the fire, crossing the river or standing in the valley.  It's harder to sing when my heart hurts but it doesn't make it any less true.

I thought of my friend Kristie who is currently battling cancer.  It's been a long battle.  It's been a tiring battle.  And I thought of her very best friend, Laura, who passed away from cancer one year ago, Saturday, December 22nd.  And I cried and sang and praised God through my tears.  

There are a few thoughts I want to get out and since it's late, and I am tired I am not promising beautiful writing.  But, as always, I promise to be real.  Here goes...

1)  If the saints who have gone before us could tell us just one thing what would they say?  If they had limited time and could only share a brief message what would they choose to communicate?  I think they might tell us to keep going.  No matter what this life takes from you, or how overwhelmed you are with your road, the evil in this world or the length of the battle you are in.  Keep going.  Jesus is worth it, no matter the cost.

2)  An entire church congregation was belting out the lyrics, "You are worth it all," and I couldn't help but think that God sings that over us.  The entire Bible is a testimony of that.  John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."  Jesus left his throne next to the Father.  He came to be born as a human, in a manger, to a virgin and live on this earth.  He was God with skin on.  And then after sacrificing everything to do just that He gave up all he had, his life, to die in our place.  To die the death of a criminal only to be raised again.  And I believe as we sang today He was saying right back, You are worth it all, to us.

3)   I love the verse in the song that says, "Jesus everything I've lost has been found in you."  I love it even though it's hard for me to put into words the extent of just how true that is.  But here is an example.  I grew up without a dad.  There was a dad hole in my heart.  I thought for the longest time that if the right guy loved me then that hole would be filled.  But no guy ever loved me completely.  Then I thought if I had a father figure that the hole would be filled.  But that wasn't true either.  Maybe if I forgave my own father for never wanting anything to do with me, maybe if I show up on his doorstep and forgive him then, then, I will be whole.  

I did that.  I showed up at his doorstep.  He wasn't home.  I did forgive him.  The hole was still there.  Then one day I realized that I had to surrender that empty piece of me.  I had been holding onto it for a long time.  And I clearly could not fill it.  I had to let it go.  Do you know what happened?  My father hole wasn't taken away.  It was filled.  The God of the universe, my Heavenly Father, filled that dad shaped hole.  What I had lost was found in Christ.  

That's what He does.  It is what He longs to do.  We've all experienced loss of some sort.  We have all had to let go of someone or something.  There was a time in my life when I felt like I knew loss better than anything else.  And I want to tell you that there is hope.  There is healing.  There is wholeness again.  But it's not in another earthly person or a thing.  It's in Christ.  And I look back on all of that and I can honestly say, He's worth it all.

Peace to you, sweet ones.  Here's the link to see Benji & Jenna Cowart perform Worth it All.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Day 8 All for an Egg

Right now I am exhausted.  Not tired.  Exhausted.  But I skipped writing yesterday so I know I need to sit here tonight and pound this out.  I'm not just lack of sleep tired, but tired from listening to a baby cry all day.  All. Day.  ALL. DAY.

The other day when I ran to Tops (not my favorite grocery store) to get some eggs I had an embarrassing moment in the check out line when the cashier had to stop the line to call the dairy department and ask a question.  I was holding up the line in a very busy store.  

To make me feel even more embarrassed was the fact that I was holding up the line because they had to ask a question about the WIC check I was using, specifically, about a brand of soy milk.  It was incredibly humbling to be standing in this line, cashier light flashing, holding onto my WIC check (that I would prefer to not have to rely on) with the customer service lead looking annoyed.  I could feel my face start to get hot.

It turns out that Tops does not carry soy milk that is acceptable with WIC.  And the rules are that you have to get everything on the check or nothing.  So, I stood there apologizing for not being able to get the groceries.  I fumbled with my wallet and packed up my receipt for the two things I was buying not covered by WIC and I pushed my little cart with my sleeping baby in it away.  As I got to the door to walk out I realized that the entire reason I dragged Sully to the store was to get eggs and I did not have them.  The tears streamed down my hot face as I looked at my sleeping baby, then back to the lines of people and finally to my near empty cart.  

I don't know why I had panicked and forgotten the eggs.  Oh, wait,  yes I do.  Because I was embarrassed.  I felt like that girl.  You know the one.  The one with the baby that shouldn't have gotten pregnant if she can't afford to take care of him without assistance.  The girl who clearly doesn't have her act together and is probably not married.  The girl who still lives with her mom in an apartment who loves her baby but still loves to party and chase after guys.  The girl who... fill in the blank.  

Even though none of those things are true about me in that moment I felt them.  In that moment I realized how I have thought those very things about other women who have stood in that position before.  I am so sorry I ever thought those things.  Sometimes, people just need a little help.  Sometimes, people just need a little compassion whether what I typed before is true or not.

I went back in the line I had waited in and with tear stained cheeks I tried to smile at the cashier.  I told her that I just needed to get the eggs I had to leave before.  She rang me out and I mustered another smile.  I walked to my car and the tears flowed.  

As I unloaded the bag of eggs into my car and shut the door I turned back to the cart and my sleeping baby.  My plan was to push the cart back to the cart coral and then carry sully's baby carrier, load him in, and drive home.  As I went to push the cart around the median the baby carrier began to fall.  I threw out my hand and grabbed it.  It was all but a split second but it felt like life was moving in slow motion.  Sully looked at me and smiled and let out a little baby giggle as if to say, "That was fun! Again!"  I lost it.  I wept.  Right there in the Tops parking lot.  I sobbed.  

And as I cried out my thanks to God for allowing me to catch my precious little boy I saw my focus shift from insecurity to praise.  From me to Jesus.  From hurt to gratitude.  I loaded Sully in the car and the ride home I praised God through my tears.  

It's funny what it takes sometimes to bring us back to what matters most.  It's funny how any other day yes, I would have been grateful that I didn't drop my baby, but after walking through those difficult moments in Tops not only was I grateful but I was refocused and humbled in the good way.  Not in the, "every one's looking at me and judging me," sort of way.  But the, "life isn't about me and God is bigger and loves me even though I don't deserve it kind of way."  

God loves you, too.  Choose today to lay your insecurity, your hurt and yourself before Him and let Him replace it with gratitude and praise.  He's crazy about you!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Day 7- Fairness

"It's not fair!"  Have you ever said those words?  I've muttered them.  I've yelled them and I've most definitely thought them.  I've said them to others and I've said them to God.  I want to share with you my latest unfair moment and then share with you how God graciously responded.

Growing up I was taught that one should go to college.  Going to college was never not an option for me.  And the teaching went something like this:  you go to college and then you get a good job.  I remember clearly that chain of thought.  It was not, go to college, have a great 4 years and then struggle for the rest of your life here on earth.  I'm pretty sure I would have remembered that.

So, I went to college.  I had a great four five years.  I liked college so much I decided to try out three different schools!  I met my husband and fell in love.  I got involved in a campus ministry.  I made some really fun friends.  Then I graduated and no one was knocking down my door to hire me.  I did actually work 25-30 hours a week my last year in college at a telecommunication and utility consulting firm (it sounds a lot fancier than it was- but I had a great boss and I really enjoyed the people I worked with).  But it wasn't the job I had dreamed of and I left the University at Buffalo still thinking that you go to college and then get a good job.

Since college I've had many a job.  I've worked as a barista and an HR assistant and everything in between.   Then I got pregnant.  And I am now a stay at home mama.  I love it.  Every day is the hardest day.  But I love, love, love it.  However, it's hard financially.  I had a conversation the other day with God about how it's not fair that some people just seem to prosper whatever they do and it always seems like we're struggling to just make ends meet and get by.  It's not fair.  I went to college.  Ryan went to college.  Shouldn't we be past the point of this struggling crap?

After I threw my little hissy fit God's gentle voice spoke over my heart, "This is what I have for you.  I've chosen you to walk this path.  It's not for everyone, but it's for you, right now.  Trust me."  Ooooohhhh.  Chosen, eh?  Oh boy.

I processed that for a while.  Here's what I can share with you about it.  I've recognized the privilege of the path that Ryan and I are walking right now- the path where every month we have to trust God to make ends meet.  While it's not always joyous and at times really hard, it's a path where God continually shows up.  It's a path that is stretching me to trust God more and the more I trust it seems the more He just keeps showing up and somehow the closeness of God trumps the difficulty of this path.  Most days, anyways.

I don't know what lot is yours- what path God is leading you down that He's selected for you.  Some paths are cushy and beautiful filled with beautiful things and beautiful people.  They are easy on the eyes and easy on the soul.  Some paths are hard and strenuous.  Some paths are painful.  If you have read some of my previous blog posts you know that I have a very dear friend that has cancer.  That is the path she's walking down right now and she daily has to choose joy because it's not abundant on her path.  Cancer doesn't reap joy.  Cancer isn't nice to look at.  It's hard and strenuous and filled with both physical pain and emotional pain.  But a relationship with Christ, no matter the path, reaps joy.  And in the midst of the hardness of one's path, the goodness of God, His love and His closeness can trump all the other things.

A relationship with Christ doesn't diminish the hard things.  It just refocuses us on what really matters-on what is eternal- that this life will pass and what isn't made right this side of heaven will be made right on the other side of heaven.  God never promised a cushy, prosperous life filled with great and beautiful things.  He never promised us that we'd walk this earth without pain.  In fact, in Philippians 3:10 Paul writes, "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings becoming like him in his death...".  The truth is God uses suffering in our lives.  When we suffer we become more and more like Christ.  Suffering is the hottest fire we can be submerged in to be refined and it doesn't go to waste.

Whatever you deem unfair in life right now, you might not be wrong.  You may even throw a holy hissy fit complete with fists raised to heaven.  I've been there.  I'm with you.  But be encouraged that while we suffer this side of heaven the promise is that we will never walk alone.  God is with you.  So, release that fiery fist of rage and let the God of the universe take hold of it and lead you down the path He has for you.  Whatever your lot, whatever mine, let our hearts proclaim that God is good and that we trust Him.

Be blessed tonight.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Day 6 Tired and not deep

Because I am a rule follower I had to go back to my first post and re-read what I wrote in order to be sure I was following my own rules with today's post.  Totally ridiculous, I know.  But I said I would write about whatever was really going on.

So, here is what is really going on:  I am tired.  Not emotionally tired just physically tired.  And I don't have anything deep and lovely to share today.  I think that's part of being real.  I have brain  farts flatulence  squeaky petes (ok, really quick, we are trying to decide what to call farts since we have a kid now.  I feel like little ones shouldn't say, "fart" and Ryan thinks "toot" is lame.  So we are feeling out the term "Squeaky Pete."  Hopefully Sully won't have any friends named Pete.  And yes, you can use it as a verb- I Squeaky Peted.).  I have days when my brain barely turns on.  I mean, I just typed an entire paragraph about flatulence.

Today was one of those days.  I woke up tired.  I baked cookies and decorated them while I was tired.  I went to the Christmas production at church and was tired.  I had dinner with a great friend and I was tired.  I got home and realized that I just don't have much to say.

So, this is my lack of depth list of fun things from today:

  • I was genuinely excited to watch parts of the Patriots vs. 49ers game because I can't stand the Patriots. I can't stand them to the point where I get angry when I watch them and they are winning and I'm not even a huge football fan.
  • I decorated more cookies today.  Half way through I lost steam and Ryan had to finish.
  • I saw "America's Got Christmas" at the Chapel with Lauren and I had a great time
  • Shout out to Lauren who starts a new chapter in her life tomorrow!  You rock, Lauren!  
  • I dug out gifts for two white elephant parties this week from my basement
So, there it is.  Totally not deep at all.  But totally real.  

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Day 5 conflict happens

Tonight will be quick because I am exhausted after a long day of making cookies, decorating cookies with friends and then Christmas shopping.

Conflict happens.  I hate conflict.  I am sure most people do.  But it happens and it happened tonight.  It's so easy to look at people's live through the lens of social media and think that not only do they have it all together but that their relationships have it all together.  I do this all the time.  So, the mask that I'm taking off tonight is the, "I have the perfect marriage," one.

The cookies I decorated on top and Ryan's on the bottom
We had our first date night in about a month and we were both so looking forward to it.  Dinner and Christmas shopping while my in-laws watched the baby.  And literally five minutes into dinner we got into a disagreement.  He said something.  I took it the wrong way.  I shut down (as I usually do).  We drove to the mall in silence.  And at about the moment I realized this was absolutely ridiculous and I overreacted he grabbed my hand.  A small gesture but it meant so much.  And we enjoyed each other's company the rest of the night.  I had to ask forgiveness for being a brat.  He forgave me and we moved on.

I love my husband.  He is patient with me and kind.  He's gentle, thoughtful and most of the time very considerate.  He's fun and he has always made me feel beautiful and loved.  But he's not perfect.  And I'm not perfect.  And while we have a good marriage, it's not perfect either.  There are times when I want it to come off that way but that's my insecurity rearing it's ugly head.  We fight.  We bicker. But at the end of the day, he's mine and I love him.

I don't know what masks you wear.  Maybe you wear the, "I have a perfect marriage," mask.  Maybe you don't.  Maybe you are ready to take them off and maybe you aren't.  It's ok either way.  Knowing is half the battle.  Be encouraged today that you are not alone and if there is a struggle in your life, whether it's your marriage or another relationship please know that 1) God knows and He longs for you to invite Him into it- to ask Him to show up in a mighty way.  Surrender to Him- there's nothing like His love poured out in your life and 2) it doesn't define you.  It may be a piece of you or who you are but you are more.  More than your hurts.  More than your scars.  More than your talents, skills, abilities and success.  Learn to be ok with who you are for God created you and formed you and He knows your heart.  Choose today to be real and live authentically.

Lots of love to you, sweet one that actually takes time to read this- my silly thoughts on life.  Your comments and encouragement have lifted my spirits and refreshed my soul these past few days and for that and for you I am incredibly grateful.  Until tomorrow...

Friday, December 14, 2012

Day 4 Broken Heart

Tonight's post isn't so much about me or a mask.  I wanted to take a moment and pour out my heart today in light of the tragedy that happened in Newtown, Connecticut.

I've thought a lot about what I want to say and I keep going back to when I was 10 years old and my mother was murdered by three young men.  Words didn't mean much then.  I don't remember anything anyone said.

What I remember is how people loved me.  How my fifth grade teacher, Ms. Rigillo, came over to my house and brought me a stuffed bear and sat at our kitchen table and visited.  I remember how my sweet group of friends kept inviting me over to play and have sleep overs and invited me into their brownie troop.  I remember how my best friend's family took me overnight every Friday and treated me like I was one of their kids.  Actions have, and always will, speak louder than words.

I don't know how to love on the families and the community that has been so affected by this tragedy except to pray for them.

Lord God,
I can't even imagine how much your heart is breaking today because I know so well that when we cry you cry, too.  When your kids hurt, you hurt, too.  But you are bigger than the hurt and you are bigger than  this tragedy and so I am asking you to comfort the parents and loved ones of the people that died today.  Your word says that you are the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles.  Comfort them.  Pour out your mercy and your grace on them.  Lord don't hold back your love.  Thank you that your word also tells us that just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives that so also through Christ our comfort overflows.  Heal these broken hearts and bind up their wounds.  Bring this community together to love one another, to help one another and let them know that You have not forsaken them or abandoned them.  Lord, when we call on you you promise to answer.  Draw near to them tonight and answer their cries.  Give them hope the way only you can.  You bring light to even the darkest places and peace in the midst of chaos.  Praise you for that.  Thank you that you love us.  Thank you that you comfort us.  Thank you that you are sovereign and Almighty and that you are good even when life hurts.  Even when our hearts are broken, you are still good.  Lavish your goodness and your love in Newtown, CT.  And Lord, be with the families in Oregon that have just walked through this as well.  Show up in a mighty way and love on them.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Day 3- Idolatry

A friend of the family was over tonight and he mentioned that my posts are long.  So, I'm keeping it short tonight.  Also, I'm tired and this topic isn't one I really want to share.  But it's a thing in my life and I'm getting real, so here goes...

Idolatry is the act of replacing God.  Back in the days of the old testament there were idols made of gold and people bowed down to them instead of God.  In fact, Moses was up on the mountain getting the ten commandments from God and his brother, a priest, was with God's people turning their gold into a calf for them to worship.

I don't have a golden calf that I bow down to.  But I do have something that has replaced God in my life.  In the hard moments, in the stressful moments, in the moments when life seems a bit too much and I want a way out instead of turning towards God and laying it all before Him I want to eat.

I hate that I just typed that for a lot of reasons.  To be absolutely, completely, taking off all my masks and baring my heart honest, it's hard to type because I am overweight.  Because I am self conscious about that.  Because when I first stepped on a wii fit three years ago my little avatar girl plumped out and looked depressed.  It's hard to type because as a kid I got picked on on the bus and as a teenager one boy, one time, said something really hurtful and no one really disagreed with him.

But, I realized today as I was praying about what to write and then praying about how I really wanted to write anything but this that this was what I needed to write.  I am not ashamed of my weight or even the food I eat.  Seven years ago God freed me from that.  I know I am a work in progress and I am actively working towards a healthy lifestyle because I want to be able to keep up with my son when he finally starts to walk.  Do I wish I was thinner? Yes.  Do I hate my body?  No.  Do I know I need to treat it well and eat healthy and be active?  Yes.

What breaks my heart and what I do feel ashamed of is that in the heat of a stressful moment my initial thought is, "I want to eat something yummy."  It's that my gut reaction is to turn to food instead of the God of the universe.  The One that knows me intimately and loves me beyond whatever I could think or imagine longs for me to lay my heart before Him, to seek Him, to converse with Him and I have chosen to withhold that from Him and replace Him with food.  He is eternal.  Food is temporary.

The mask is off and I'm feeling a little vulnerable so I am going to end here.  I do want to reiterate why I am doing this 20 days of being real: because I do believe that life is about connecting.  My hope isn't just that I would bare my soul and it would be done but that it would encourage you to connect with someone today.  To be real.  To live authentically.  To know that even though we wear masks and think we might be unlovable that God sees right through them to our hearts and He loves us.  He loves you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Day 2 Getting Real- I'm Messy

Yesterday I wrote about the comparison trap that I so often fall into.  Today I thought about something I remember learning in college: comparison creates an umbrella effect.  When we compare ourselves to others we either put ourselves above them or beneath them.  We gravitate over the umbrella or comparing brings us under it.  Either way is wrong.  It's pride to think we're better than another and it's pride masquerading as humility when we think we are less than someone else.

I want to share two things today.  The first has a lot to do with taking off a mask and the second was an unexpected God moment that I just want to share.  

clean, not put away dishes
Hi, my name is Danielle and I am a horrible housekeeper.  *gasp!*  Well, unless you really know me and then you are sitting at your computer nodding your head. ha!  It's true.  I hate this about myself but I don't care enough about it for it to really bring about change.  In fact, the only time I really care about having a super clean, neat and tidy house is if company is coming over.  In my normal day to day life it doesn't really bother me that there are little fur bunnies dancing around my hardwood floor or that my bed isn't made or that my desk is piled with papers and mail.  

I like to be organized but it doesn't stress me out when I'm not.  Well, until I have to find something.  Or, again, until someone is coming over.  Because if others know this then that means I am less of a woman.  It means they will judge me.  Or talk about my messy house when they leave.  It means they won't like me as much.  It means I'm standing under the umbrella and they are over it.  And I want to look like I have it all together.

My very messy Island
I remember as a teenager I didn't make my bed.  My grandma did.  Actually, as a kid I didn't have any chores.  My aunt told my grandma that I needed chores or I would grow up into a sloth of an adult (ok, she didn't use those words- she was much kinder. That was just what my heart heard).  So, my lack of housekeeping skills hit a tender spot.  Do I know I'm not a sloth of an adult?  Most days.  Do I feel less than because of them?  Yep.

Messy Counter
So, today I am peeling away that mask and am choosing grace.  I am not the tidiest.  And if you come to my house and take your shoes off (which you never ever have to do) your white socks may be a little less white when you leave.  But this I promise you- I will sit with you and I will listen to you.  I will offer you coffee or tea and if I have any treats you can help yourself. I will laugh with you and I might even cry with you.  That's what I can bring to my very messy table.

Here's the second thing I want to share with you: I had a really cool God moment today.  I ran to Target to pick up some Christmas gifts.  I thought it would just be a neat little trip in which I would treat myself to a tall, non-fat, no whip, caramel brulee latte and peruse the aisles with a sleeping baby in his carrier.  I did treat myself to a delicious latte and I perused the aisles.  The baby didn't sleep and I had to make a trip to the bathroom after he blew up his diaper.  The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

So, I was checking out and I just happened to look up at the lady that was cashing me out and I looked her in the eye and asked, "How are you today?" and I didn't look away.  She looked at me and I saw a little pain in her face.  She said that she'd been better.  I asked her why.  This morning she had to put her dog to sleep.  As she rang me out she shared about his struggles the past nine months and how today she had to put him down.  He was a little maltese named Gus.  

As I put my bags into my cart I told her how sorry I was and how I have a dog that is my baby, too.  And I leaned over and hugged her.  I don't know why.  I like a good hug but I am well aware not everybody does.  But sometimes when God works we don't have time to stop and think we are just in this moment, unaware of how big it really is.  And we act out of the core of who we are and I just like to hug.  This woman, she leaned in and accepted my hug.  She squeezed me back and thanked me and then told me to have a blessed day.

I walked out of Target knowing God had orchestrated that.  I didn't seek it.  I didn't start my day asking God for a great moment or to even help someone.  He just did it.  And I am incredibly humbled that I got to be a part of it.  I hope that lady knows that the God of the universe cares immensely about her.  Enough to send a random stranger to hug her.  Oh, the lengths God goes to to remind us just how much He cares.  

So, I'm a terrible housekeeper.  The worst.  But I can hug like a champ! I'll share with you the part of my day that cracks me up the most, I mean, since I already have you here.  After leaving Target I ran to Marshall's across the plaza.  As I checked out I purposefully looked the cashier in the eye and said, "How are you today?" just like I had done five minutes earlier in Target.  She looked at me like I was a weirdo, snapped out a, "Fine," handed me my receipt and ushered me on my way.  As my friend Kristie said, "It's not a recipe."  God does wonderful things.  On my own I do mediocre things. 

Lots of love to you today as you read this.  I'll be back tomorrow sans one more mask.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

20 Days of Getting Real

I have been wrestling with writing this post for almost a week and finally I am sitting down to type.  Last week at MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) a very sweet lady gave a very convicting talk about the comparison trap that we women fall into and the masks we wear as a result.  I am guilty of it.  I have been guilty of it for as long as I can remember.

In elementary school, my group of friends had moms and dads.  I was the only one that lived with her grandparents.  I was ashamed of that until I went to college.  I had a friend, Katie and she was pretty and incredibly smart and she could draw Disney princesses without having to trace them.  I was a good student but not as smart as Katie and I always had to trace the Disney Princesses because when I drew them freehand they resembled Edvard Munch's "The Scream" rather than Jasmine, Ariel or Belle.  Then there was Beth- Beth was creative and artsy and totally an individual.  And I was normal and boring and thought inside the box.  In high school I had friends that were thin and outgoing, beautiful and athletic and, although I loved them, in the back of my mind I always wondered how I fit in with them because I was awkward, clumsy and definitely not thin.   I felt like an outsider that had somehow snuck into their lives and was just waiting to be found out for who I really was.  Once they saw me for who I was they would shun me.  Looking back I know that was my own insecurity and I also know I missed out on really loving them because I was so dang insecure!

Those thoughts kept me in a really hard place of desiring their love and affection but also wanting to keep them at arm's length because I believed, eventually, they would leave me.  Self destructive? Yes. Healthy? No. If you know my childhood does it make sense? Well, yeah.  But the lie that I believed for most of my life was that was just how it had to be.

As a grown woman who has been through counseling I know better.  I am not the same person that I was at 15 or 17 or even 23.  But to say that the comparison trap is dead would be a lie.  The reality is that it's just different things that I can compare nowadays.  House, car, job, kids, income, weight, hair, fashion, etc.

So, here was my challenge- to be real.  To take off my mask and encourage women to take theirs off, too. If we all vowed to be real and to live authentically we could stop comparing and start enjoying each other.  Trish, who spoke at MOPS, said, "Life isn't about fitting in.  It's about connecting with each other."  That just hit my heart.

I have spent too much of my life trying to fit in and counting all the ways I have and continue to fall short.  I missed out on some really sweet relationships because of that and I am done.  So, for the next 20 days I will blog about whatever is really going on- not that I've ever written anything untrue before. But I want to peel away some masks and be free to share with you things that will hopefully break the "Happy, Sunshine, Rainbow" life that gets portrayed in social media.

So, let's start with the one that is freshest in my mind:  I feel like a crappy mom.  We started Sully on rice cereal even though I wanted to hold out and just nurse him until six months.  And I have struggled with thinking that I'm a bad mom because of that.  Even though I know it's what he needed because for four days he was miserable and I couldn't figure out why.  When I called the pediatrician and talked to the nurse she said he might be hungry since crying non stop is so out of his character.  I don't know where I came up with the expectation that I needed to solely nurse him until six months.  I don't know why in my head I think others will look down on me for that.  But I do.  And even though I now have a very happy baby and it's what is best for him, I still have the voice in the back of my mind telling me I failed.

Sully after rice cereal
This is where I can choose to stay.  It's actually really easy.  I could walk into the next MOPS meeting and feel like every mom in there is judging me.  Or this can be the crossroad where I choose to believe that I am being the best mom I can be.  This is where I can choose to walk in grace.

To the woman/mom that can relate to what I've just typed- whether it's about rice cereal or something totally different, let's band together and remember that today is not about fitting in but about connecting.  Maybe you wanted to breastfeed with all your heart and your body just couldn't.  Maybe you wanted to give birth naturally but you broke down and got an epidural or had to have a c-section.  Maybe you haven't lost those extra baby weight pounds or you have and your friends haven't.  Maybe you are walking through a desert season and comparing your life to someone who's in a mountaintop season.  Whatever comparison that runs through your mind when you are around a group of women, take time today to recognize it.  Take time today to lay it aside and connect with someone.

I'll be back tomorrow.  My mask won't.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

No Greater Gift

I currently have a three month old (craziness!) with a cold (not fun).  It started yesterday with a cough and some sneezing and today my little guy is all stuffed up and still coughing.  No fever though, so thank you, Lord!

Today as I snuggled him close to me and watched his little eyes water and heard the wheezing in his breath I whispered over him, "I wish I could take this from you and have it myself.  I love you."  And as soon as I finished that sentence a treasured memory flashed through my mind.

I don't have many memories of my mom.  And the ones that I do have, the hard ones outweigh the good.  But one of the memories I cherish was when I was maybe 7 years old.  I had a horrible cold that consisted of a fever, sore throat and no energy.  I spent days on the couch watching Nickelodeon- miserable because it hurt to swallow even water.

I remember my mom sitting with me on the couch (I should specify- we never had a couch growing up.  We had hand me down patio furniture that my grandparents had reupholstered so it had normal material instead of the orange plastic-y fabric it originally came with.  I never knew this wasn't normal until I was in college.  I still feel deprived).  She had my head on her lap and she sat with me stroking my hair as I lay exhausted on the couch.  Then she said, "I wish I could take this from you so you wouldn't have to be sick anymore.  If I could be sick instead of you, I would."

Such a simple statement from the heart of a mother.  One I now fully understand.  And if this memory was precious before I was a mom, you better believe I hold it even more dear.  I get the love she felt for me in that moment.  She wasn't the best mom.  At times she wasn't a good mom.  But I know from that one statement that she did, indeed, love me.

There's something incredibly deep about the statement my mom said to me.  I was suffering.  I was sick.  I couldn't cure myself.  I couldn't fix me.  But she wanted to.  She was willing to suffer instead of me.  But she couldn't.  But her heart was there.

I have this other sickness.  It runs rampant through my body.  The truth is, it was killing me.  I was sick and I couldn't fix me.  I was suffering and I was going to die.

The sickness, you may have heard about it. It's called sin.  We're all born with it.  The Bible says in Romans that we've all sinned.  Sin is an archery term meaning to miss the mark.  I know I have missed the mark many, many times.  We are born with a condition of sin and then as we live out our lives there is the symptom of sin every day.  Ever lie?  Cheat?  Steal? Ever doubt God is who He says He is?  Ever curse?  Take God's name in vain?  Ever judged another person?  Gossiped? Have you ever lived like you were the king of your life?  Sitting on the throne of your life like you were in charge and life was all about, only ever about you?  

I have.  And if you're really honest, you have, too.  We're sick.  Sin sick.  But do you know what God's heart is?  It's the heart of a loving, kind parent.  He knew we were sick.  He knew there was nothing we could do in our power to fix ourselves.  We were and would always be sick with sin.  

But God is also just.  And the Bible says that the wages (what we earn) for our sin condition is death.  Forever separated from the God that lovingly created us and wants to know us and to be known by us.  So He couldn't just choose to ignore our condition.  Something had to be done.  We had to be made well.

And so, the heart of our Heavenly Father desired much what my mom desired when she uttered those sweet words to me way back when.  He desired to take our condition away.  Jesus came and lived a life that had no sin.  And when he was crucified on that cross it was God saying to his kids, "I am taking your place.  I am taking your sin upon me so that you can be well.  So that you can be made whole.  So that you can know the One that loves you and desires a relationship with you."  Jesus died so that when we pass from this earth we can still be in relationship with God.  But death could not hold him and after three days he rose.  He conquered death.  He conquered sin.  He lives so that we can live lives that are full of God's grace and rich in His mercy.  His resurrection means that there is hope for our sin condition.

It's really a beautiful picture of the heart of a parent for His kids.  But the reality is, it's a gift and a gift is useless unless we choose to accept it and open it.  A gift that just sits on a shelf unopened was not the intent of the one that gave the gift.  The intention of the giver is that we would open it, accept it and enjoy it.  

I was 17 when I learned about my sin condition and my inability to make myself well.  To make myself whole.  And it was then that I realized that God was loving.  He made a way for me, for you, to be well.  Jesus suffered in our place.  I was 17 when I accepted the gift God has given.  At 31, I'm still amazed at this gift and how loving the God of the universe is.  And as a mom, I continue to grasp more and more what God's love is like.  I used to think that this gift sometimes depended on me and how I acted or how "good" I was.  As a mom, I now see, I love Sullivan because of who he is (my son) not what he does.  I would take his cold from him in a heart beat not because he's a good baby or because he deserves it but because I love him.  Because he's my son.  Because I'm his mama.  

In case you don't know, God is crazy about you.  Not because you are awesome (although, you probably are pretty cool) or because you do amazing things (although, you might do some amazing things).  He loves you and he took your place on the cross because of who He is.  Because He's your Heavenly Father.  Because He's loving.  Because He's good.  Because He's awesome and He does do amazing things.  

If you want to get more of a picture of God's heart and who He is, check out the book of John in the New Testament (I like the NIV version, but that's just personal preference.  The Message would be good.  And unless you are partial to "thee's" and "thou's" I wouldn't recommend starting to read the King James Version).  

"Greater love has no one than this: that he lay down his life for his friends."  John 15:13 (NIV)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Seasons Change

As we head into mid November and the weather seems to be heading into early September I am reminded of the word that God has been speaking to my heart.  "Season."

Seasons are a beautiful thing, especially when you live somewhere like Buffalo, NY where there is tangible change as we enter into a new one.  My favorite season is autumn.  Hands down.  I love the colors, the warmth of the oranges, golds and rich browns.  I adore the smells of pumpkin, cinnamon and spice.  Mayer Brothers apple cider and Starbucks pumpkin scones could be my sustenance throughout the entire month of October.  I am not a huge fan of Halloween, but family gathered around the table at Thanksgiving with my Aunt Sue's turkey on the table makes my heart smile and makes me drool a little, too.

Summer is a close second with the sweet smell of freshly cut grass, a warm breeze blowing and the first warm day when you drive with all the windows down even when your car has air conditioning.  Life has many seasons but sometimes I fail to realize that.  I lose sight of that and think solely about the here and now feeling overwhelmed that nothing will ever change and whatever obstacle I'm facing will forever be there.

But life has seasons.  This is comforting to me- and I'm not a girl that particularly likes change.  But it reminds me that I don't have to have it all together.  It reminds me that I don't have to have it all figured out.  It reminds me that tension or that time to adjust to something new will end, because life has seasons and seasons change.

While with all my heart I knew I wanted to stay at home with my baby boy after he was born it wasn't necessarily an easy decision both from a financial stand point but also from a I've worked since I graduated college, this is who I am and this is what I do standpoint.  After quitting, while God made it very clear that was what He wanted me to do, and while I knew it was something I wanted as well, I struggled.  What was my purpose?  Days went by with my energy drained filled with thoughts of sitting behind a desk again with adults that could communicate with words that would affirm my abilities, who also wouldn't spit up on my clean outfit or need me to feed them every three hours.

I remember sitting at my MOPS table early on- Sully was only maybe a month and a half at this point and I hadn't yet quit my job.  I shared the struggle that was going on within me and one of the other moms told me she went through the same thing.  And then she realized it was a season.  Working full time was a season.  Staying home with a baby was a season.  And then having multiple kids and one in pre-school was a season.  Those words washed over me, refreshed me.  If working was a season, it would be ok for it to change.  If having a little one to care for that sucks all of my time, energy and attention is a season then it's ok that there is this adjustment period and there is hope to one day sleep a full 8 hours because someday a new season will come!

I don't know what your season looks like.  Mine is filled with a sweet, chubby cheeked little boy that has stolen my heart that needs to be fed every three hours and can now sleep longer than he did a month ago!  And when I get to the end of my day or my week and I have nothing left to give I remember that this is a season.  And because it's a season and one I won't be able to go back to with him I try to be intentional about pouring out all the love, hugs and kisses I can.  I try to be intentional about enjoying this season, hard as it is at moments.  Maybe the season you are in involves potty training, or sleepless nights or maybe it involves a really tough battle.  Maybe your season is filled with joy and excitement and times of blessing.  But I know that some of you may be in a season of loss, unknown, waiting or hardship.  Remember, it's a season.  And winter always seems longer than spring or summer (at least in Buffalo it does!) but it's a season.  There is hope.

Here's the hope I cling to- whatever the season God is good.  Always.  The seasons of our lives change.  But the God of the universe is unchanging.  He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  Whatever season you are in may you have the hope and peace that comes with knowing that God is good and that He's always in control.  He is crazy about you!

Monday, November 5, 2012

By God's power

"What would it look like if every Christian in your community fully submitted themselves to the Spirit's leading?"

This is the question that Francis Chan asks on page 107 of his book, "Remembering the Forgotten God" workbook.  I wanted to share my answer because yesterday after Ryan and I left church the Holy Spirit was laying heavy on my heart this question but in a, "Danielle, what would your life look like if you fully submitted yourself to my leading?"  And I haven't been able to shake it.  I've been thinking and dreaming for the last day about this question.  Today, I sit down to finish chapter 7 of this study and here is that question.  So, I started to just dream.  To just write out my answer as things flew into my brain and two pages later, I could have kept going.  

I want to share it with you- whether you believe Christ is who He says He is or not.  I want to share it because it's on my heart.  So, here goes.

If every Christian in my community, including myself, fully submitted to the Spirit's leading it would look like this:  The poor would be fed, clothed and cared for throughout the year, not just at Christmastime.  The orphans would be loved, held, fostered and adopted.  The rich would be generous with more than just their money.  The ones with less would give more- not for their own glory, but for God's.  Walls would come down in every heart.  Masks that have been worn for years would be taken off.  Insecurities and lies would be thrown at the foot of the cross, left there and replaced with the incredible truth that God doesn't make junk.  That He has created man and woman alike in His image, for His glory and to live in relationship with Him.  Conflicts would be addressed and forgiveness would abound.  The gospel wouldn't just be preached on Sundays, but lived out every day of the week before an unbelieving world- for all to see, for all to experience.  Church would become more than just four walls, a pulpit and a preacher.  It would be a body of people choosing each day to believe God is who He says He is, even when life hurts, tears fall, and circumstances don't make sense.  It would look like people choosing to step out of the safe into the unknown, laying down what is most precious to them and picking up the cross.  It would look like comradery, the kind that comes from doing life together, from being in the trenches together.  When one person hurts, all would hurt and when one rejoices, all would rejoice.  Selfishness would be thrown to the wayside to instead lift others up, put them before ourselves, even when it isn't easy or convenient.  The goal of life wouldn't be to obtain things that are bigger, better or faster.  The goal of life wouldn't be more stuff, a bigger house, a newer car or a top paying job.  Instead, the goal of life would be to love God with all your heart, mind and soul and to love others as yourself.  And while there is nothing wrong with having a nice house, a new car or things, it wouldn't be the pursuit of the people of Christ.  If we chose to submit to the Spirit's leading we would recognize all that we have is really God's.  He can give and He can take away.  And we would wake up daily and ask Him, "God, how can I glorify you today with all that you've blessed me with."  It'd look like the people of God, regardless of age, race, gender and socio-economic status, asking that very question and living with open hands and open hearts.  To fully submit to the Spirit's leading would look like crazy, radical living and the world wouldn't know what to do with it.

Zechariah 4:6 says, "...'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty."  And Matthew 22:37-40 says that the greatest commandment is, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."  Finally, in Galatians Paul writes, "So, I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with each other... But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. Against such things there is no law... Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.  Therefore as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers."  (Galatians 5:16-17, 22, 6:9-10)

So, today, I am asking God to submit me to His authority.  I'm asking Him where in my life I need to step out in faith and truth Him to be who He says He is.  I am asking Him to provide opportunities to be generous, giving, compassionate and kind and that in that moment, scary as it might be, to act.

Join me in asking these things.  Let's live out the gospel- loving the unlovable and caring for those God has put in our lives.  We can submit to His authority and choose to believe Him and love Him today.  Christ died that we may have life and have it abundantly.  Let's choose to share it with those around us.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sullivan's Birth Story

I have been wanting to sit down and write this for what seems like forever.  In reality, it's been the last six weeks.  Just six weeks.  But somehow it really does feel like forever.  This post is for my son but I'm sharing it because it's so much of my heart and because I read a birth story while I was pregnant and it touched me, encouraged me and shed some light for this girl who hadn't yet walked that road.  For that I am so grateful.

So, here is Sullivan's birth story.  It was quite a journey for both of us.  I'm so glad I'm his mama and that I get to tell it.  Here goes...


You were estimated to make your arrival into this world on Sunday, August 12th.  There was some speculation that you would either come early or that you would be quite a large baby.  As your mama, I was hoping you'd come early.  Both because I was excited to meet you, but also because I was feeling as if you were quite large and it was the hottest summer in Buffalo since the summer I started dating your father (10 years ago!).

The Tuesday before you were due was my last day at work.  That Wednesday I had a routine doctor's appointment.  I learned that there seemed to be no progress in you making your way out early.  I was not dilated and you hadn't even dropped.  Part of me was ok with this because the truth is, having never gone through this before, I was scared to death.  I was scared I wouldn't be able to handle the pain.  Scared of the unknown.  Scared something would go wrong.  I knew I could handle being pregnant because I had done that for the last nine months.  Giving birth was a whole other story, and I was scared.

I had heard several people say that when they got to the end of their pregnancy they were so uncomfortable that they didn't care how that baby got out, they just wanted it out.  I was uncomfortable the last week.  I was huge.  My ankles were swollen.  I got up to go to the bathroom 3 times a night.  But I hadn't reached my limit and I knew it.  But I would.  Little did I know, it would take more than the previous three things I mentioned to push this girl to the brink of, "Get this child out of me NOW!" land!

The Friday before you were due was the closing ceremonies of the Olympics in London.  I sat on an exercise ball in our living room while your dad rubbed my achy back and I bounced.  I bounced in hopes that it would make you drop and maybe cause me to go into labor (even though I was scared to death of that very thing).

That night I woke up a bunch of times with "cramps" and lower back pain.  When I got up on Saturday I realized that I was having contractions.  I cried.  Your mama was a big chicken!  And I didn't want to tell your dad because if I said it out loud it would make it real.  And I didn't want it to be real.  Fear does funny things to us.  But your dad came in the bedroom where I was and said we needed to pray for a friend's son. And when he sat down next to me and took my hands I told him to pray for you and me because you were on your way.

He was giddy like a little kid.  Ecstatic!  And I wanted to punch him because his joy meant lots and lots of pain for me.  Even though I spent the whole night incredibly uncomfortable I still hadn't reached my breaking point.  And I wouldn't.  I would have back labor for three more nights.  Each night would be more intense than the night before and each night I would sleep less and less.
Last pregnant picture before we left for the hospital

Monday your dad stayed home for work because I really thought you were coming that day.  I called the doctor and told them how the back labor was 7 minutes apart but that it always stopped during the day.  They told me that I probably wasn't in labor and to just come to my regular appointment the next day.

So, that is what I did.  Tuesday morning when your dad woke up he asked if he should go to work.  Exhausted and frustrated I told him yes because it seemed that everything was just the same as the day before.  He left for work and I was able to get two hours of sleep after being up all night.  I woke up, showered, blow dried my hair, painted my nails (the one thing I really wanted to do before giving birth but I just kept putting it off) and I left for my appointment.

I sat in the waiting room of the doctor's office and I prayed.  At this point I didn't even know what to pray for, I just knew I didn't want to walk out of that office without having something be different.  I thought maybe at least I would be dilated and have an idea that you were coming in the next few days.

And the Lord so graciously answered that prayer!  The nurse did the usual- took my blood pressure, weighed me, etc.  Then she hooked me up to the fetal monitor.  "If you have a contraction, push this button.  If the baby moves, push this button."  Both happened.  Dr. Falkner came in and we talked about the potential of inducing me later that week.  She checked the monitor and she checked me and I was 4 1/2 centimeters dilated.  Our conversation changed right then and there.

"Go home.  Get some food because once you get to the hospital they won't let you eat.  Get your husband and head to the hospital.  You are going to have this baby today."  It felt surreal.  It still does even as I type this.  I couldn't believe I was going to finally meet you.  And let me just say, after 4 nights of back labor, I had reached my limit.  I was finally to the point where I didn't care how you came I just wanted you out.

Apparently my breaking point was higher than I thought, but God knew.  He orchestrated each back contraction, each sleepless night, and he prepared my heart to say, "God, I trust you.  I'm scared, but I trust you."

last day Cole was the only baby in the house 
 So, I left the doctor's office and called your dad to meet me at home.  I called Aunt Kristie and your Great Grandma and Lauren.  I went through the Dunkin' Donuts drive through and ordered a chicken salad sandwich and a donut.  I got home and your dad was already there.  He grabbed my bag, we took some pictures and we drove to Mercy Hospital.  In the parking ramp I had a contraction (all back labor- only ever back labor).  There was a kind construction worker that asked if I wanted a ride.  Sullivan, I was so overjoyed you were on your way that the pain, at this point, didn't matter.  We declined the ride.

I checked into the hospital right around 3pm on Tuesday, August 14th.  Your father and I watched Everybody Loves Raymond on the tiniest television ever made in the hospital room.  I had inconsistent back labor contractions for about 4 hours.  I had an allergic reaction to the Ampicillin they gave me and almost yakked up that chicken salad sandwich.  They gave me petocin (no, I have no idea how to spell that) and then the back labor became intense.  Very intense.  Every three minutes intense.  Sweating, deep breathing, gripping the side of the hospital bed intense.  And I asked for the epidural.  The contractions needed to be continually consistent.  Oh, back labor is a horrible thing.  Horrible.  Not that labor is not horrible.  But back labor, it is especially horrible.

Your father can tell you I only had one break down in labor.  I kept my manners the entire time except for when the nurse had me get in position to the get the epidural- sit in the middle of the bed, legs out straight, and lean over- only the doctor was taking his time coming.  I had a contraction while waiting for him while in that position.  Back labor while sitting is especially painful.  What flew from my mouth was, "Where the hell is the doctor!"  I'm not proud of it.  But it is what I said and it's part of your story.  :)

Your father was standing behind me.  I couldn't see him.  But he later confessed to laughing at that.  A few minutes later, Dr. Harvey came and gave me the epidural.  It was an instant warm, numbing feeling.  It was amazing.  I told him he was my favorite person of the night and as he left I told him to keep up the good work.  I was giddy with numbness!

Welcome to the world Sullivan!
That was 10pm.  I slept for the next 4 hours, turning from one side to the next when the nurse came in just about every hour.  I hadn't slept that many hours straight in four nights.  It was wonderful.  WONDERFUL.

The most amazing labor and delivery nurse, Eileen. She took amazing care of me!
At 2 am I felt like I had to poop.  Sorry, kid.  Birth stories aren't neat and pretty.  They aren't rainbows and sunshine.  That meant you were there, ready to come.  The pressure was you.  I pushed for just about an hour every time I felt that pressure.

 And you, Sullivan Henry Kader, were born at 3:08 am on Wednesday, August 15th.  You weighed 9lbs 2 oz and were 21 1/2 inches long.  Your head looked like a football and you had the quietest, raspiest little cry.  And it was love at first sight.  Your dad cried and I just smiled and laughed- giddy and filled with joy as I looked at you- the son I had carried, worried about, prayed for, dreamed about, talked to and prepared for for the last 40 weeks.  There you were, healthy and in my arms.  And my life changed at that moment.  And it will truly never be the same.  Once you are a parent, you just can't go back.  I will never not be your mama.  And I love that.
With Dr. Falkner, my amazing doctor!

Sullivan in the hospital
 What else do I want you to know?  Your Grandma and Grandpa were in the waiting room most of the night.  They both had to work the next day so Grandma left around 11pm.  Grandpa stayed until around 1am.  Uncle Sean and Uncle Todd were there, too.  Uncle Sean left, but Uncle Todd stayed until 3am.  He missed being there by 8 minutes.  But he was your very first visitor in the hospital.  Grandma and Grandpa and Uncle Sean all came that day to see you, too.

In the car seat ready to go home

Aunt Kristie was out of town but we all wanted her to be there for your birth.  She came as soon as she got back in town!  Lauren visited us in the hospital and so did Ms. Deanna.  We brought you home that Friday and you, kiddo, looked quite adorable!
 I know this is a long post, and it honestly could have been so much longer.  But how does one summarize one of the best, most life changing days, in a simple, short paragraph?  This is your story, Sullivan.  It's just the beginning of your story and I get to be a part of it.  What a gift- a sweet gift that humbles me.  Six weeks later, this sleep deprived mama is just as crazy about you as I was those first moments.  Sometimes I just stare at you and think how I can't believe you are my kid.  I can't believe God's trusted me to love you and teach you, snuggle you, provide for you and care for you.  Your dad and I are blessed- way, way, way more than we deserve.  Way more than we could have ever asked to be.

I love you.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Out of Control and Loving it!

There are currently five days until my estimated due date.  I can't believe that I've been pregnant for 39 weeks and yet at the same time it is weird to think that at some point I wasn't pregnant.  It's just such an everyday normal thing now- the giant belly that protrudes beyond what I actually think so I bump into people, chairs, walls, the dog, etc; the waddling (I can't remember what it's like to walk and not waddle), the 3 pee breaks per night (what is it like to have a normal, adult size bladder??), oh, and what do my ankles really look like when they aren't swollen?  I don't remember.  I have some vague memory of actually being able to see an ankle bone.  I'm pretty sure I didn't grow up with cankles, but for the past three months it's all I've known.

Considering the heat of this summer and that I'm so close to my due date I feel pretty great.  And for that I am incredibly grateful.  I'm ready for this little guy to come, but most of that comes because I just want to meet him.  To see his face, to hold his little body and ooo and awww over him.  He is a gift.  I may need to remember that through the toddler years, but it's a truth that is very clear right now.

During the past week God has made something so clear to me I just have to share it.  It's this- I am not in control.  Shocker, right?  No, but really... I am not in control.  Guess what?  You aren't either.  It's really one of the biggest lies we can believe.  People strive their entire lives to be in control. I've done it.  Guilty as charged.  But with being pregnant it's never been more clear that that is not the case.

I woke up the other morning and thought through what my day was most likely going to look like.  I'd get up, get ready for work, get to work, check off A, B and C off my to do list, go to lunch, work on organizing some things on my desk, shut down my computer, leave for the day, go home, make dinner, eat with Ryan, water the flowers, do the dishes, crash on my bed and sleep for three hours before the first bathroom break of the night.  Just a usual Monday.  And then I thought, I could go into labor today.  Literally, everything could change... today.  I heard God's gentle voice telling me that I am not in control.

Do you know the beautiful part of that?  It was comforting!  It was freeing.  It was peace filled.  So, each day since then I've woken up being completely aware that I have no idea what the day holds.  I could go into labor.  I could deliver a baby.  My water could break in the kitchen at work.  I could eat spicy Mighty Taco and bounce on an exercise ball until the cows come home and still have five days before I deliver (or 10- oh boy).  But it's ok.  Because lack of me being in control doesn't mean chaos.  It doesn't mean that my life is spinning out of control and I'm going to fall apart.  It means trusting in Christ and taking each day as it comes.  If the baby doesn't come, I thank the Lord for whatever happened that day- whatever gifts it held.  And if this little one decides to come, I will thank Him for that.  It's "Lord willing" living.  Example: "Lord willing, I'll get to go to the store today."  Or, "Lord willing, I'll deliver this baby by Sunday."  It's not about my will, my plans, my five year plan.  It's about God's.  All about Him.  It puts Him on the throne and me surrendered before Him.  A humble, but beautiful, shouldn't be any other way, place to be.

It brings a smile to my face to think that God already knows my son's birthdate.  God is God.  He's in control. He's way better at being in control than I am so I am going to choose to trust Him.  He is worth it. May you have a Lord willing kind of day and choose to trust Him. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Power of the Tongue

Let me share with you the latest lesson God has taught me.  Walk with me down the road and my hope and prayer is that you can learn from my mistake and be spared from making it yourself.  It is a good lesson.  But it was not fun to learn.  Looking back, however, my hard, stubborn heart needed a good kick in the pants.

I've struggled for a while with my words.  Not necessarily profanity, but catch me on a bad day, one where my hormones are raging from this pregnancy, traffic is just more than usual on a Monday morning when the lady in the lane next to me wont' let me get over to exit and yes, I confess, some unholy words fly out as my face turns red. 

But the real struggle is in being kind with my words towards others.  When they frustrate me or are ungracious to me, my reaction is unkind words.  Sometimes they are spoken.  Sometimes they are just thought.  Either way, Jesus was pretty clear that the sins we commit in our hearts are still that- sins.

And I've asked God to free me from it.  But I've not really wanted to let it go.  Ever have one of those moments with the Lord?  I knew deep down it was going to take something horrible to break me of this habitual sin of unkind words and thoughts toward His creations.  But I was still unwilling.

And so last Tuesday began- as any other normal work day.  I was emailing instructions about something that I manage at work to the person that is going to be taking it over.  In the instructions I said to email janedoe@janedoe' and in parentheses put "(she's a little bit flakey)".  Did he really need to know that about Jane Doe?  No.  Is Jane Doe a little bit flakey?  Maybe.  But guess what?  So am I!  (Baby brain is real.  I swear!). 

No harm, right? A simple email to a work friend with those 5 words.  Well, except that this flake typed Jane Doe's email in the CC box so that I could copy and paste it into the email and it would be correct. 

AND THEN I NEVER DELETED IT.  I sent Jane Doe the email telling her she's a little bit flakey.

Whoops!  To which I received a rather heated voicemail and then an email telling me that I was clearly the flakey one because I didn't mean to send that email.  I ate some humble pie for lunch that day.

But it didn't end there.  I couldn't just hide my horrible deed.  Because she cc'ed the two people I had emailed.  And I knew I had to 1) apologize and 2) tell my supervisors. 

The verse that the Holy Spirit laid heavily on my spirit was this- "The tongue has the power of life and death. Those who love it will eat its fruit."  Proverbs 18:21 

I am grateful that the Lord did not let me keep living without breaking me of the unkind words addiction.  I am also grateful because the next day as I sat and opened my devotional and my bible it was all about God redeeming our mistakes, being bigger than them and not dwelling on them.  His forgiveness and grace were honey to my soul- sweet and rich.  Even in the midst of discipline and hard lessons He is still good!

Learn from my mistake- please!  Happy Tuesday!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Letter to My Baby

Dear Baby,

I've been wanting to sit down and write this for months but each time I try to it seems that it's just too much to say.  Too many words.  Too many thoughts.  Too many free nuggets of wisdom that I want you to know and believe.  And so instead I sit still and I think them, hoping that somehow the thoughts in my head and the desires of my heart will seep deep into your soul while your little heart beats inside me.

It's a funny thing- this pregnancy.  This time that you are living inside of me, mooching off of me.  It tenders my heart to think how much you need me and how, already, I get to take care of you.  It's a funny thing how already I love you so much.  I hope that I have many, many years to tell you that I love you and to show you just how much that is true.  But I know firsthand that life is fragile and that the Good Lord never promises us a tomorrow here on earth.  So, I'll put pen to paper fingers to this keyboard and tell you some things now.

1)  You, my sweet boy, are loved.  First and foremost by God.  He's knitting you together with His powerful, Mighty, Tender hands and He is crazy about you!  And then you are loved by your father and myself.  I wish you could see the little glimmer in his eyes when he talks about you or when he puts his hand on my growing belly.  When he calls you by name and talks to you there is a sweetness in his voice.  It makes my heart smile. 

  I think about you all the time and pray for you.  I continually ask God what His desires and dreams are for your life and that He would prepare us for you.  I love you.  To pieces. 

And you have grandparents that are THRILLED that you are on your way!  I think they've been waiting to be grandparents ever since your father and I got married.  They are amazing parents and I have no doubt that they will love you like crazy and spoil you to no avail.  It's their job and I believe they are taking it very seriously.

2)  My number one desire for your life is not that you be happy.  Happiness is overrated.  It comes and goes.  It's fleeting and can fail you.  My number one desire for your life is that you know and believe God- He is so very worth it.  He's the God of the universe, who calls you by name.  I want you to be crazy, head-over-heels, radically in love with the One that knows your heart and can redeem your soul.  My prayer is that Jesus gets a hold of you and never lets go.  Baby, run hard after Him.  Nothing else will ever satisfy the cravings of your soul like the Lord can.  You may search elsewhere.  But the truth is, nothing else compares.  Never has.  Never will.

3)  I hope that you grow into the kind of boy that is strong and sensitive.  Thoughtful and fun.  The kind that respects others and looks people straight in the eye.  I hope that you are mindful that words can cut deep and even throughout the toughest years, the most awkward years, I hope that you are kind.  Kind to yourself.  Kind to your parents and family.  Kind to girls.  Kind to animals (especially the dog- we love the dog).

4)  You, Baby, are a miracle.  You are a reminder to me that God brings us full circle.  The works He starts in our lives He continues.  He doesn't forget.  He doesn't abandon.  He completes.  He finishes.  And His work is good.  Our lives will most likely be very different when compared next to each other.  And someday when you are older, if you take the time to listen, I will share with you the redeeming work God has done in my life.  And in my story you will hear just how you, my little love, fit into it.  How you are more than a life.  You are a testimony that God can take the most broken heart and make it whole and then bring it to a place where not only can it survive, but it can grow, and thrive and love to the fullest.  Oh, His grace amazes me.  I will never leave you.  I will never walk away from you.  When you hurt I will hurt.  When you need discipline, I will discipline and I will not tear you down.

I love you, my sweet child.

your Mom

p.s. I hope you love the dog as much as I do!  He really is just the sweetest!  It's ok if you don't like the cat. I understand.

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Top 6 Bargain Beauty Picks

Good Morning!  It is a good morning- at least here in Buffalo in my tiny world it is.  We are closing on our house today!  And... the sun is shining.  Love that sun!  We often don't get enough of it here in good ol' Buffalo.

Today I thought I would switch it up and share with you my top 6 favorite bargain beauty picks.  You can find these products at drugstores and Target.  Love me a shopping trip to Target!  They are in no particular order and here goes!

1)  Aveeno Ultra-Calming Daily Moisturizer w/ SPF 15
(Let me apologize for my photography- I am a) new at this and b) have a crappy camera that we've been talking about replacing for a while now).
So, back to this moisturizer.  I have sensitive skin.  Something that for the better part of 28 years I never knew until I worked with a girl who was an esthetician and diagnosed me right away.  It's ok, I've come to cope with my condition and Aveeno has helped.  It's thick and creamy and doesn't feel oily to me once it absorbs into my skin.  It would be nice if it had a higher SPF but here in Buffalo our summers and sun are short, so I throw on extra SPF during those months that I really need it because I will be outside.  It's also oil-free, hypoallergenic and noncomedogenic so it won't cause blocked pores.

2)  Physicians Formula Multi-Colored Pressed Powder in BUFF
I like to switch up my foundation.  But foundation can be expensive.  I tend to switch between Bare Minerals, Clinique Super Balanced liquid foundation and this pressed powder.  I apply with either a kabuki brush or the puff that comes with this compact.  Once you open it up the powder part swings up and underneath is a mirror and a powder puff.  It's light and provides just enough coverage.  I like to use it in the summer if I need just a light touching up.  

3)  Burt's Bees Nourishing Lip Balm with Mango Butter
Can anyone say chapstick obsessed?  I am chapstick obsessed.  I usually have anywhere from 3-6 chapsticks at a given time and they are stashed in my purse, jacket pocket, night stand, bathroom medicine cabinet and make up bag.  And this is by far my favorite!  It's smooth and really moisturizes my lips.  Plus, it's mango.  And I really love mango!

4)  L'Oreal Paris Colour Riche Balm in Caring Coral

This smooth balm gives me just the tiniest hint of color while moisturizing my lips.  It's light and really the perfect spring color for me!  If you prefer bolder colors don't be shy because this color was a lot lighter than I anticipated.  Plus, take a risk!  It's only lip balm!

5)  Maybelline Shinesensational  Lip Gloss in Cherry Kiss
For the days when I am feeling a little bolder and have a little more bounce in my step I like to wear this really shiny lip gloss that has a tint of red.  Not too much red.  Just enough.  If you want bolder because you are a strong, independent and sassy woman Maybelline also makes a red lip liner that you can use to color your lips before applying this gloss.  And should you choose to do that, let me be the first to say,  You rock!

6)  Neutrogena Healthy Volume Mascara in Carbon Black
There's something I need to confess.  I am a mascara snob.  There I said it.  I don't like drug store mascaras.    I like Lancome and Clinique.  I like to layer mascara and try to get the longest, fullest lashes I can.  I have bad lash days like others have bad hair days.  So, please know that though this product doesn't rate up there with Lancome's mascara, for a drug store beauty pick, it's pretty darn good.  It's really thick, doesn't clump and I can easily layer it.  Hats off to you, Neutrogena, job well done.  I bought it on a whim one day when my really great mascara was drying up and I was feeling cheap and didn't want to make a trip to the mall.  And I have been impressed!  *** and a little free nugget of info for you, because I like you- a drop or two of pure saline solution into your favorite dying drying out mascara and a little swirl of the wand and it's almost as good as new!***

I should state that these are my opinions and no one paid me or endorsed me to say them.  I am also not affiliated with any of the above companies.

How about you?  I'd love to hear about your favorite beauty bargain product! 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Little Things

There are moments in life, at least in my life, that I've known are big.  They are a big deal.  The week I spent at Young Life camp when I was 17 and heard about God, grace, sin and Jesus dying on the cross for me, for you.  The night I sat on the rocks in the Adirondacks during that week and finally took off the masks, revealed my scars and asked a Holy, loving, God to be Lord of my life.  That was big.  The day my husband proposed as we walked along the beach looking for sea glass.  Our wedding day and the look Ryan had on his face when he saw me for the first time in that white dress.  My first day at college, feeling like I was starting a new chapter.  The day my mom died and knowing somehow that life would never quite be the same.  And most recently the day I peed on the stick and two pink lines appeared- I was pregnant.  I walked into my kitchen, fell to my knees and cried and praised God.  What a gift.  A life changing gift.

I'm sure you have your big moments, too.  The ones that have somehow shaped and define you.  And I believe, that for the most part, they are few and far between.  But what we have daily are the little things.  Quiet moments, small gifts and sometimes we miss them.  Sometimes, I miss them.  And sometimes I just flat out don't recognize them. 

Coming home from work yesterday my feet were fat.  Not swollen. Fat.  Two fat, chunky blocks attached to my legs.  I walked in the door and my husband had set up the foot bath for me to soak my fat feet in.  Driving to work the other morning there was literally no traffic.  Work has been hectic and a bit stressful and my boss texted me after I had left the office that she appreciates all that I do.  Every night when I walk in the door my dog greets me like I am the best part of his day and in the morning he does the exact same thing when I wake up.  A sweet friend let me know that she's been praying for me. 

These are all small things.  Things that in the midst of a hectic and busy life I can miss as little gifts.  But they, just like the large moments, can define and shape me.  Do I take the time to acknowledge them and to thank God for them?  To live each day with a grateful heart- to be grateful even for the things that don't necessarily seem like they are small gifts because they are hard or challenging or push my buttons in the worst way.  But I can choose to be grateful that God will use those things for His good, to complete His purpose in me (patience, compassion, gentleness.... the road to these are not easy!). 

I haven't done the best job this week of recognizing it.  It took me until this morning during my devotional time to be convicted of that.  How about you?  What are some big moments that have shaped you and some little moments that you are grateful for?